In my husband’s case, his continuing sense of humor makes a horrible disease tolerable for both of us. Plus, I’ve discovered there are several things that are “good” about his dementia.
Peter doesn’t know how to describe pain, not even in the moment. Maybe he never did and I’m only now noticing. He can’t say if pain is sharp, dull, throbbing, piercing. He can’t say if it’s a three or a nine on a scale of ten.
Several months ago, he came to me nearly doubled over with pain. His shoulder was scrunched up towards his ear and he was gripping the back of his neck. “I don’t know what this is, but I need to go to the doctor,” he said, grimacing.
My husband never thinks he needs to see a doctor, and he never complains that he hurts. I calmed both of us down with a cup of tea, and after questioning him, I decided he’d had muscle spasms, not a heart attack. That was a Friday evening.
I watched him over the weekend, and though he winced from time to time, he never said another word. But Monday morning he complained again so I made an appointment to see the doctor.
By the time we arrived, he had no pain and no memory of it. I knew he hadn’t been faking, but I couldn’t believe he didn’t remember. Further, he didn’t know why we were in the doctor’s waiting room! When I asked how he felt, he shook his head dismissively, and shrugged his shoulders. Then he stood and patted himself down — chest, back, arms, legs — and said, “Yep, I ‘feel’ just fine.” His eyes twinkled.
The doctor said arthritic spurs on his upper spine were making the nerves twang like too-tight banjo strings. He prescribed ointment, pain pills, and physical therapy.